New York State Police add helicopter to fleet

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. (WCAX) There's a new bird in the skies over the North Country. The New York State Police added a Huey helicopter to their fleet. Our Kelly O'Brien got a closer look.

"This is such a versatile ship for this area," Maj. Brent Gillam said.

The military-grade Huey helicopter now sits at the state police aviation site in Saranac Lake.

"One of many ships we've acquired through the federal surplus program called the 1033 or LESO program," Gillam said.

It's equipped for rescue missions and to help fight fires like we saw last year in Altona.

A lot goes into each flight. They have to be on top of weather conditions and assess risk on the fly, making a plan and a backup plan in case of unsafe flying conditions.

"Safety's first. The number one goal is to get myself and crew home at the end of the night," said Scott Kotronis, a pilot with state police aviation.

It's only been in the North Country for a week but it has already been put to use. On Tuesday, a call came in for four hikers on top of Mount Colden; one hiker injured himself.

"Two of us flew up with the use of this new helicopter," New York Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo said.

They were able to treat the injury.

It's not uncommon for state police to work with the Department of Environmental Conservation on rescue missions.

If a call comes in and helicopter use is needed, they will fly out and assess the situation from the air. If it seems stable, they will toss down a message using a homemade tool.

"Hopefully, we find someone in good shape and that's all we'll be doing, drop down and tell them to stay put until someone can help from the ground," Kotronis said. "And I think they relax a lot more because they have communication and know help is on the way."